Top 10 Australian Albums of 2015

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I’ve listened to a fair bit of music this year. A decent amount, I’d say. Some of it was old, some of it was new, some of it was shit, and some of it was really fucking shit. But for the most part, it was really, really, really fucking good.

And at the pinnacle of it all was music from this country – there were plenty of things to be ashamed of Australia about this year, but music wasn’t one of ’em. After years of ignorance and cultural cringe, trying to echo the charts of the US and the UK, Australia produced three globe-conquering bands that feel like they could have only been birthed right here. Regardless of how you feel about their music, the fact that Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala and Hiatus Kaiyote wrestled the spotlight back to the land of Vegemite and lockout laws can only be a good thing. At best, it’s a chance to show how Australia can excel whilst working outside the lines of what is considered traditional pop music, and at worst, you can be a little bit patriotic when it comes to these fucking year end lists.

None of the aforementioned artists actually feature in my favourite albums of this year – the records were objectively good, but I’ve never been at the pub, heard “Let It Happen”, and turned to my best mate with a wide grin. However, I respect the fact that they’ve gotten the world’s attention to Australian music again, and now that we’ve got their eyeballs in a Clockwork Orange binge position, we suffocate them with as much of the good stuff as possible. Such as:

10. Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida

Melbourne, Florida holds plenty of reasons as to why you should be showing Dick Diver to everyone you know. Even without mentioning their magnum opus Calendar Days, shoving songs like Waste the Alphabet” or “Tearing the Posters Down” should be high on your priority list of songs to put on when someone asks “What should we listen to?”. There’s a narrative tilt to the way that Dick Diver write songs that’s unmatched amongst their contemporaries. If anyone claims that jangle-pop is too disaffected and obsessed with the mundane, smack them sideways with your copy of this record, and showcase the emotional weight in songs like “Boomer Class” to silence them effectively.

Full Review of Dick Diver’s Melbourne, Florida

9. Bad//Dreems – Dogs At Bay

If Dogs At Bay had been released during the period that Bad//Dreems are emulating, then it would’ve been one of Au-Go-Go’s most prized possessions. As it happens, Dogs At Bay came out in 2015, and introduced a whole new generation of kids to the glory of pub rock. Beer-soaked riffs, a howl that reaches all the way to the loner coughing up their life savings at the pokies, and a wide swathe of material that nodded to folks like GOD, Coloured Balls, The Go-Betweens and The Angels, Bad//Dreems pounded the listener with an affecting album of impressive rock.

Full Review of Bad//Dreems’ Dogs At Bay

8. Palms – Crazy Rack

Outside of Sydney, it seemed like this record was a bit ignored. Which is a huge shame, because it’s full of rock gems that span from the riff hurricane of “Bad Apple”, to the Cheap Trick-spiritual successor “Thoughts of You”, to “Sleep Too Much” a face-melter that rivals the power of The Ark of the Covenant. There were also pleasantly surprising softer moments that took Palms away from being pigeon holed as a band that could only do garage-rock. When you feel a bit shit, and needed that quick fix of heartfelt headbangers that you’re not ashamed to belt out off-key and shred an air guitar to, crank Crazy Rack. 

Full Review of Palms’ Crazy Rack

7.  MAKING – High Life

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/132638620″>MAKING – COME 2 ME</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user41667982″>TRAIT RECORDS</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

MAKING were the band that took me by surprise most this year. I’d never seen their live show before, and had only really glanced through their previous singles. Which is how “Come 2 Me” hit me so hard, Thor’s hammer splicing open my skull, caving in expectations. Indeed, all of High Life has that effect of being ripped apart from the inside by a pack of raging rhinoceros. Over the course of a half-hour, MAKING pulverises minds to dust, leaving you shivering, cold and begging for more. Their approach to music – thundering drums ploughing into a swelling bruise of menace until the whole fucking thing explodes – is exceptional. Furthermore, the sheer musicality of MAKING is terrifying: HOW DO THEY MAKE THE SOUNDS THEY ARE MAKING? How do they force their record to appear like the apocalypse? It’s complexity completely removed of pretension, just bucking insanity stripped to its most batshit crazy.

Full Review of MAKING’s High Life

6. Heart Beach – Heart Beach

Hobart’s Heart Beach are an unassuming bunch; they use what they need, and nothing more. Their cover for their album is just a heart and a palm tree – nothing fancy, just enough to let the kids know what they’re getting. Musically, they’re just as sparse: mild guitar lines, feathering drums, the occasional burst of noise, and lightly duetting vocals that miser around bum-puffing, waiting, and the small pleasures you hold dear when you work in office.

And with that simple tool of simplicity, everything that Heart Beach quietly whisper is a boom. When you’re a band like Heart Beach, loaded with inherent sorrow, its the little things that count the most. This is an album focused purely on the little things, and for that, this unassuming record has become one of the most powerful of the year.

5. Gang of Youths – The Positions

The accompanying story to The Positions makes it clear that it was always an album that was going to be made. It’s a testament to the band’s ability that what they have made is so good. Pivoting between enormous waves of Springsteen arena-ready rock and intimate moments  that could easily belong on a Joni Mitchell record, the thing that holds these changes together is frontman Dave Le’aupepe bare honesty. Put in the same position, there’s no fucking way I’d be comfortable sharing  ideas like suicide, critical levels of self-doubt and watching the person you love the most slowly dying in front of you. But that’s what Gang of Youths do, and its a jaw-dropping experience of an album because of that.

The Positions isn’t just an album that’s captivating because of its story, or because of how a person is telling the story, or because of the musical accompaniment, but a sum of these amazing parts. Do yourself a favour, and sit down with this album. Don’t get distracted, don’t listen to just the singles, listen to all of it. By the end of that run-time, if you’ve done it properly, The Positions will have hit you like a fucking train has ploughed through your soul, and you’ll be thankful for it.

Full Review of Gang of Youths’ The Positions

4. Roland Tings – Roland Tings

Here’s a good reason why Year End Lists matter – without Mess + Noise’s ‘Best Songs of 2013’ article, I never would’ve found Roland Tings. Since hearing “Tomita’s Basement”, I’ve been devoted to everything he’s put out. It’s just the smoothest music in the land right now, exotic soundscapes made by a bonafide genius.

Roland Tings’ debut is one that just keeps on giving, whether it be the hyperactive, salivating “Pala”, which sounds like Tings recorded synths over the best pool party ever, the cavernous “Cultural Canal” or the tantalising squelch of “Coming Up For Air”. Roland Tings made a party record that is universal, a protege extension of Todd Terje’s thrilling music. It is so easy to get lost in this album, but when its a record this flamboyant, diverse and fun, you’ll never want to get out.

Full Review of Roland Tings’ Roland Tings

3. Power – Electric Glitter Boogie

Putting on Electric Glitter Boogie, you get hit with the same feeling that accompanied people hearing Raw Power and Teenage Hate for the first time. There’s a carnal, primitive energy that only hits rock music every now and then, a spark that sounds like someone throwing a toaster in a bathtub.

Electric Glitter Boogie is unrelenting in its mission to seek and destroy what was previously the most maddening rock to scorch this Earth. Every song wreaks complete destruction, proto-punk missiles sinking their teeth into your very being and thrashing around, until your as cold and lifeless as all the other victims. When Power scream, they flatten their surroundings to patches of dirt. Power make me want to put my hand in a blender, and laugh all the way to the emergency room. They’ve made the most maniacal, demented, absurd ode to real rock music capable, and if you have any interest in the carnivorous power of guitar, you need to indulge in this album. Power’s title doesn’t just ring true, it redefines the meaning.

Full Review of Power’s Electric Glitter Boogie

2. Blank Realm – Illegals in Heaven

A year later, and Blank Realm are still on top – their 2014 masterpiece Grassed Inn seemed like an unbeatable benchmark for the group, but here we are: Illegals in Heaven is Blank Realm’s SECOND magnum opus.

There’s not a song on this album that isn’t a total winner, even if they incite that reaction for different reasons. “No Views” cries victory for its chugging riffs and squealing keytar, whilst “Palace of Love” and “River of Longing” triumph with their stories of lost love that are so intimate, yet could also apply to millions of relationships out there. And “Gold” remains possibly the best song Blank Realm have ever written, and in following logic, that means its one of the best Australian songs ever written.

Illegals in Heaven isn’t a perfect album, it is the perfect album. There is so much here to fall in love with, a constant stream of discovering new points in the album to exclaim, “Well, fuck me, that’s got to be the best thing ever recorded!”. It’s an album to be listened to with friends, with strangers, by yourself, at the pub, at a party, at a funeral, at the fucking fish and chip shop – there is no situation to far fetched or ordinary that Illegals in Heaven wouldn’t make the perfect companion to. Buy this album, hold it close, and severe all ties with anyone who tries to “borrow” it.

Full Review of Blank Realm’s Illegals in Heaven

1. Royal Headache – High

There’s a whole list of reasons as to why High is the best and most important record of 2015. It sees one of Australia’s arguably greatest contemporary band return to form after a three year absence, it sees them extend and explore beyond what they became so well known for, it followed one of the best performances the Opera House has ever been privy to, and Iggy Pop really liked it.

But the main reason why Royal Headache top this pretty irrelevant list is because High wins from sheer listenability. And isn’t that precisely what a good record should be? I’ve listened to this album more than any other this year, so much so that I’ve worn out my first copy and had to order a second one. I love it so much that I’m terrified to write about it, because I know I won’t even get close to describing how good it is.Whatever your rating system is, 10 stars, 5 flaming guitars, A/B/C/D, whatever…High doesn’t just take out the highest possible rating, it expunges that system from existence, and sits glowering atop the rubble.

The way Royal Headache punch through song after song, bringing the house down every two minutes or so – that’s exactly what drew me to liking music in the first place. High incites a reaction in me that hits so close to the bone that I’m embarrassed to even talk about it. This sounds like raving, but it’s important, at least to me, to express how much of total fucking masterpiece this record is. If there’s anyone out there with a doubt of how good a band can possibly be, chuck on this Royal Headache album, and feel all your cynicism at modern music fade away.

Full Review of Royal Headache’s High 

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New from Cinnamon Records: Teaser Pony + Primary Colours + Passive Smoke

Fuck, dropped a bit behind on one of the best new labels out of Australia. Actually, Cinnamon was born in Canberra, if you can bloody believe it. Actually, you can, because the place where Joe Hockey, Chris Pyne and Tony Abbott engage in circle jerks is also the home to TV Colours, Wives, The Fighting League and many more purveyors of the excellent and weird.

Here’s a coupla gems that the label have released in the past few months that I forgot to #blog about:

Teaser Pony – Teaser Pony EP

Ozcore is bloody booming right now, and it seems like everyone who owns a footy jersey and a guitar wants to have a go. However, Teaser Pony are worth muddying your boots over. Culled from members of Dick Diver, Total Giovanni and Radiant Living, Teaser Pony just released a 7″, and it’s got everything on there you could want. Deplorable tales of losses at the footy, unrequited love, and existential crisis’ wrought from being stuck in the same cycle of work/gigs/two-bit relationships are vacuumed up into a loveable lil’ package of jutting guitar melodies, a smidgen of saxophone and some ever delightful vocals courtesy of Chris Crisafi.

Primary Colours – Compact Disc/Services Rendered 7″

Fuck knows how I missed this one when it was released in February. Primary Colours are an awesome band, both live and on record, and I’ve let down the entire globe by not writing a minimum of 150 words about how great they are.

Well, here goes – think of some threatening post-punk, Gang of Four for example, and then throw down a gauntlet of shrill noise and snarl. I’m talking a growl of the same degree that those wolves from Game of Thrones pull off. Mean, ya feel me? Mechanical and synthetic, this 7″ showcases that Primary Colours possess two damn fine qualities: they are both absolutely fucking terrifying, and incredibly essential to anyone who’s favourite band is Pere Ubu (aka, anyone worth shouting a schooey).

Passive Smoke – Inhale

We live in Australia, so getting lung cancer is pretty much guaranteed, regardless of whether you like to munch JPS or not. Therefore, the name Passive Smoke is such an applicable name, as well as such a band that could only exist in Australia.

The latest release from Cinnamon Records, Passive Smoke offer a fantastically bare bones approach, not too dissimilar to Kitchen’s Floor. It’s casual, naked and docile, a really beautifully rough offering of a band that certainly has more to offer. However, for the time being, these charred five tracks will do nicely as a buffer. Specifically, check out “Self Care” – what a goddamn hypnotiser of a track!

Album Review: Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida

 

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It took me a while to get around to listening Dick Diver, a lot longer than I should’ve waited. I waited longer to listen to Dick Diver than Axl Rose takes to braid his hair. But a Melbourne four piece signed to Chapter Music, combined from members of Eastlink, Straightjacket Nation, The UV Race, Boomgates et. al., as well as a bromance between Rupert Edwards and Alistair McKay that creatively envies that of Forster and McLennan is something that feels like a must have for Rye-Rye’s record collection. Maybe it was the dick joke that wasn’t really a dick joke, or the popularity surrounding their second record ‘Calendar Days’ that made me think that they weren’t worth the time to check out. I mean, how can any sort of band with ‘hype’ be any good? Dontcha know that the mainstream music press is just a circlejerk between the major labels and the editors of NME? Shit, all the @goodmusic comes from the blogosphere, every punk knows that!

But it wasn’t until I sunk my teeth into the glassy, suburban poetry of songs like “Through the D”, “Walk for Room” and “Water Damage” that I managed to chuck away the preconceptions I held around this band, and embrace them for the amazing and unique group they are, as opposed to the “…unwilling pioneers of a joke genre called Dolewave” as Wikipedia so bluntly puts it. Dick Diver are extending upon the great works that The Go-Betweens established, echoing the 80’s aesthetic, but in no way ripping it off. Dick Diver stand at the centre of a broad collection of current guitar-pop artists that is wealthier than Scrooge McDuck’s pool of gold.

For their third record, Dick Diver immediately go for the self-deprecation. It’s right there, in the title: ‘Melbourne, Florida’. What better way to silence critics that say the band lean too strongly upon their homebase of Melbourne than to name your record after a city with the same name on the other side of the world? But the jokey atmosphere more or less ends there, and it’s for the better. The songs on ‘Melbourne, Florida’ seem more confessional than before, and are accompanied by a more solemn musical palette than anything Dick Diver have utilised before. Don’t take that to mean the Melbsters have gone Kraftwerk, but there are splashes of morbid saxophone, mousey synths, and even some languid piano. There’s more confidence to lay things bare, and the result is a fantastically raw and slow-burning record.

Sure, the first two singles were about as ‘explosive’ as Dick Diver songs come, but “Tearing The Posters Down” and “Waste the Alphabet” are anomalies on the record. Fantastic, beautiful anomalies, but outliers nonetheless. That may have set folks up for a different kind of record, but its one worth pursuing regardless. You’re a fool if you don’t sit down with this album, and let Rupert/Al/Al/Steph’s voices serenade you with all their quiet might. The album is strong, packed with heartfelt throat-catchers, like the sliding, electric croon of “Private Number”, which is basically  Yellow Brick Road-era Elton John being plopped in the middle of a depressed sharehouse in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. Or the clicking Triffids-esque “Percentage Points”, which is as spiritually inspiring as anything from Hillsong, and cooler than Fonzie kicking a jukebox. Or the mildly bogan chugger of “Year in Pictures”, which sweetens itself into one of the ripest reflections that Dick Diver have ever performed.

On ‘Melbourne, Florida’, Dick Diver are looking back. They’re not defending themselves, but they are growing up, pondering shit and taking stock, and doing it all in the most audibly pleasing of ways. Dick Diver know how to make good albums, and ‘Melbourne, Florida’, is an example of said album. Don’t be like 17 year old Ryan, that kid was a dick. Make like 19-and-a-1/2 year old Ryan, and appreciate the shit out of some Dick Diver. It’s the mature thing to do.

‘Melbourne, Florida’ is out as of today on Chapter Music, get it from the Bandcamp here. 

New: Dick Diver – Tearing The Posters Down

More Dick Diver goodness! Listening to this band is on par with being cocooned in comfort, as eucalyptus guitar resounds brilliantly off the shady pining of Rupert’s musings.

Dick Diver have always excelled in the ‘Strayan poetic department, often delivering laconic observations at a pleasant pace. “Tearing The Posters Down” is no different,  an effortlessly catchy ode to taking a stance. Top notch work.

New: Dick Diver – Waste the Alphabet

Earlier this year, at one of the best gigs of the year (more on that later) Dick Diver headlined a mini-festival of enormous proportions. Dick Diver are fantastic, but are they fantastic enough to be memorable amongst a day of performances from the likes of Day Ravies, The Ocean Party, Holy Balm and Dag?

Long story short, yes Dick Diver were everything you could hope for in a band and more. They’ve got songs that present suburban meandering as the the most gorgeous thing in the world. They played “Waste the Alphabet” at both shows, and the song was an easy standouts, glistening and brave colloquialism charm mingling with bristled guitars. On record, the song shines even better, because you can play it over and over again instead of Dick Diver launching into the next song of their set.

“Waste the Alphabet” is the first pop masterpiece to emerge from ‘Melbourne, Florida”, Dick Diver’s third album, which will be out in March. That’s about it for this week’s edition of “Fuck Yes, That’s Heaps Good News”.

Premiere! The S-Bends – Bottle-O-Farrell

Political dissent in a can! Who couldn’t get around that!? Nah, but this single from The S-Bends is probably the greatest quiet moment that Sydney has had in fucking forever. This band is actually the shit, especially if they can keep pumping out gorgeous songs like this. Not quite jangle-pop, “Bottle-O-Farrell” has a sighing bravado to it, complaining about these fucking bottle shop closures and smashing bottles, paired with shaky camera footage of the youth just being the youth.

It’s like we’re watching the first singles from The Ocean Party, or Lower Plenty, being released just before us, only this time, it’s from a bunch of Sydney legends. The fact that we’ll soon have a local contender who can do battle, if not succeed the crown of having the most beautiful misery song in Australia, well it just makes my heart warm, and this time, it’s not an oncoming heart-attack.

The S-Bends are playing THIS THURSDAY at Valve Bar with Claire & the Cops and Wash, who both fucking rule.

Album Review: Total Control-Typical System

Nup, you’ve got to be joking. There’s no way Total Control just released another album. Surely blood should be raining from the sky, swarms of locusts should be covering all available crops, and children should be crying. There’s no other way that a band so holy could announce their second masterpiece without a spectacle at least on par with that. Anyway, whilst we wait for Beelzebub to raise from his slumber, you may as well just read this review.

The reason why I use such excited hyperbole when describing ‘Typical System’ is because this album actually succeeds the genius put forth from Total Control’s debut album. They’ve moved in a million new directions, covering so much ground that it makes you want to throw up in jealousy and happiness. There is still the synth-wadded post-punk and insane fury there, but this time it feels like Total Control are adding more, fucking with the formula, and coming up with a potent potion that puts those mud concoctions you made as a kid to shame.

The main thing when venturing into ‘Typical System’ is that not one song acts as a signifier for the whole album, but rather all the songs together form a jigsaw puzzle that you can only solve after listening to the entire thing. Remember the satisfaction of completing a jigsaw puzzle? Well, gorging yourself on ‘Typical System’ multiplies that weird pleasure by a million.

 

However, there is a key to this jigsaw puzzle, and that key lies in the first two singles from the album, ‘Expensive Dog’ and ‘Flesh War’, two songs that couldn’t be more different in sound if they tried. The former is just crushing, epic guitar, like Hans Zimmer on crack, and ‘Flesh War; is a post-punk epiphany. Although I stand by the statement that no two songs on ‘Typical System’ are alike, they do fall into a category of heart-pounding, cynical ball-tearers, or the synth-wrapped post-punkers that are schizophrenically soothing.

For example, the opener ‘Glass’ is a shot, shining and altogether slinking electronic thing that sounds like Gang Of Four is being squeezed through a wormhole, whilst ‘Systematic Fuck’ is a screaming carnivore. As the chorus of ‘You’re the one to blame’ rings out loudly and abusively, it becomes fairly obvious that Total Control aren’t afraid of making enemies. Rather, they take pleasure in tearing down the walls of timidness and banality.

‘Typical System’ is so much more than an album by one of our nation’s greatest treasures-it’s a record that thrives upon the things that most people sweep under the carpet. Modern fears, modern truths and modern lies are all shouted out by Total Control, with the kind of unwavering energy that GG Allin had. Only instead of throwing their shit at the audience, Total Control use thumping music with more crunch than the Captain, and imprint their tunes with a seal of viciousness and whiplash that belies most of The Birthday Party’s work. That jigsaw mentioned before? Fuck that, Total Control have smashed it to pieces, and created their own goddamn puzzle. Dark, foreboding, and looming, not above you, but with you, Total Control act as the heroes of modern day Australia with ‘Typical System’, and you wouldn’t want it any other way.

New: Dick Diver-New Name Blues 7″

 

I really gotta give it to my mate Nick here, he is ahead of the game when it comes to amazing new releases. Otherwise this beautiful new 7″ from bonafide Australian legends Dick Diver might have slipped right past me.

Just two songs long might seem short, but when you’re as experienced in the ways of the Dick Diver, two songs is more than enough to quench your thirst. The first track, ‘New Name Blues’ is a heart-wrencher, the kind of song about just being another face in the crowd, that ironically stands right out for being so fantastic. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to not listen to this song, it’s sincerely beautiful and truthful in every component. If this were an HSC exam, Dick Diver would score 100%, which is technically impossible. What I’m trying to say here is that Dick Diver have beaten logic on this new song, and it doesn’t even surprise me.

The second song on here is entitled ‘Lonely Life’. It’s a deceivingly joyful tune that brings your spirit up even though Al Montfort’s is so low. Kinda like sister band Twerps’ ‘Work It Out’, it takes the most yearning and gorgeous aspects of music, adds on some stunning vocal interplay between Steph Hughes and Al, and then trickles this piano on there that WILL make your eyes shed tears harder than that time Iron Man ‘died’ in the Avengers.

Goddamn, these songs are so unbelievably beautiful, I can’t get over it. Buy yourself a copy of this 7″, then buy all of Dick Divers’ previous material, and then wallow in the depression that you’ll never make songs as good as these ones.

Gig Review: Laneway Festival

One word summarisation of article: Go!

Sunday 2nd of February @ Rozelle College of Arts

Laneway Festival is, without a doubt, the musical event to most look forward to on the Sydney music calendar. Its planned the way a serial killer plans their first murder, with extraneous care and meticulous planning. Every year, the booking of the festival reads like a who’s who of the biggest artists of the moment, and 2014 was no exception. In short, if you didn’t go to Laneway this year, you fucked yourself over.

Besides the music, Laneway surpasses the other big festivals of the calendar because they put in considerable effort to create one of the nicest, most relaxing and beautiful places to enjoy yourself. Set at the Rozelle College of Arts and the park surroundings, you could actually lay down in front of the two main stages and never move, and you’d still have yourself one of the best days of your year. And if you came to the festival but hate music, then you can simply plug in some earplugs, and check out a bunch of other attractions. Thankfully, in this case it doesn’t mean a rollercoaster that’ll put you back $50, but rather some art installations, a vinyl tent, or the food trucks. Yep, the fucking food trucks went off. Best festival food I’ve had in my entire life.

But why the fuck would you scrape a ticket if you hated tunes? What kind of sick, sadistic bastard steals a Laneway ticket from someone else and doesn’t even watch a single act on display? You’d have to be Barry O’Farrell-esque to execute a move that dick-ish. Which is why I got to the festival as early as possible, and clambered to the stage where The Growl were playing. The Growl are another Tame Impala-affiliated project, this time from Cam Avery. However, the music couldn’t be further from psychedelic. They’re a rumbling band, with Avery channeling his inner Tex Perkins to great effect. One word description-swagger. Not swag, swagger.

Although the songs on display were pretty cool (understatement, you can download some of The Growl’s songs here) and a couple of their new tracks really got excitement levels sky high, the band seemed a bit tired on stage. Regardless of the act and amount of hip-thrusts one can shove into a song, opening a festival is fucking hard.

However, on the Red Bull/Future Classic Stage, things were heating up for the few in attendance for Scenic, another Perth act. However, these guys were more akin to Jagwar Ma than Tame Impala. They were effortlessly cool up on stage, pushing out the synth-psych vibes like they were Daddy Warbucks handing out opportunities to orphaned red heads. All their songs contained a sense of danger and cutting edge, and the constant jogging and energy onstage was pretty hard to look away from, or even ironically imitate. Nope, it was way too fucking hot and energetic to try and impersonate. To the guys from Scenic, give up your day jobs and become athletes, you’ve got crazy stamina. Or just keep pumping out tunes like ‘Ride The Thrill’, either is good for me.

After taking on some of the majesty of Scenic, it was off to Drenge, the two-piece garage punks from the UK that would hopefully take my brain to town. However, unfortunately, the two-piece couldn’t catch a break on stage. Undoubtedly, their music is much more suited to an intimate 200-person max show in a dingy basement. On stage, Drenge put out some great vibes, but their equipment was, simply put, fucked. Wind ruined the sound, making their screeches barely audible. And on the topic of screeches, unwanted feedback and a mildly consistent them of pedals cutting out mid song made it hard to appreciate Drenge the way they probably should be appreciated. I mean, ‘Bloodsports’ is such a killer track, and a few other songs alighted comparisons to DZ Deathrays (whom are an obvious choice of band to spend the rest of your life following around). Unfortunately, with the lack of power and conviction, Drenge remained a mild band to watch under the blistering heat.

So, some knob decided that after Drenge, we should go see Autre Ne Veut instead of the brilliant Kirin J Callinan. Obligingly, I followed, only to be met with roughly three minutes of the lamest horse shit this side of a McDonald’s McRib. When you hear the words, up and coming New York producer, there’s an inherent hope that you’re going to witness the next James Murphy. Instead, we were handed a guy that wanted to be Drake so badly, despite not showcasing any of the capabilities that gives the mirage of Drake being good. Instead, there was over-the-top theatrics with absolutely no pay off. Its like the Titanic soundtrack being performed by a white Lil’ Wayne. Autre Ne Veut wants to put so many random brands all into the one performance, whilst holding it under the banner of ‘synergy’. If he were an Office Space character, he’d be the boss. It was time to leave after Autre Ne Veut graduated from kneeling on the floor to standing in a Jesus Christ pose on the PA.

Back to Kirin J Callinan on the main stage, and he’s putting on a performance worthy of such a title. He stands defiantly, wearing an Eddy Merckx cyclist jersey, he swarms through his material from his EP’s and debut record ‘Embracism’. Whilst most might know him for his challenging music that puts all genres in a melting pot to come up with something infinetely more progressive than whatever Autre Ne Veut is pushing, the stand outs from the set where his more 80’s tunes. Think of The Boys Next Door, The Triffids, Killing Joke and Echo & The Bunnymen, then fast-forward a few decades, where Tony Abbott rules with an iron, hypocritical fist. Replace Nick Cave with a taught, beady and charisma-reeking frontman, and you’ve got the Kirin J Callinan project. Diverse and entertaining as anything, ‘Landslide’ and ‘W II W’ were particularly testicle-wringingly good. And the fact he’s got the perfect 2GB radio host voice, and an affinity for shirtless-ness makes his performances all that more enthralling.

Here’s something that I’m sure a lot of people would like to know-King Krule has got fucking nothing on Run the Jewels. Whilst my ginger compadre sways with the mediocre, Killer Mike and El-P put on one of the most memorable festival sets I’ve ever seen. There’s nothing bad to say about Run the Jewels, and really, the only thing that can be sad is that you need to go see this group and download their album right now (it can be done for free and legally right here). Watching the group, it was impossible to not get swept up in the hype and joy that they machine-gunned from the stage. They wrought the crowd happily weak with their tracks from their only record and solo albums, with songs like ‘Sea Legs’, 36″ Chain’ and the closer of ‘A Christmas Fucking Miracle’ causing the audience to lose their shit with the most fabulously stupid grins sported on their faces.

As if their hyper-speed music wasn’t enough on record, the flawless verses of Killer Mike, a combination of the old-school Big Boi and new school of Rick Ross, were executed to perfection. El-P more than held his weight, running his own verses around the crowd like he was lassoing them into a hip-hop cult. And the stage banter! Never have I laughed like I laughed at this show. If Killer Mike and El-P ever feel like giving up on hip-hop, then stand up is there fallback. Never has the repeated phrase of ‘SWAG’ sounded so glorious.

Finally, Run the Jewels were so special because there is an intensely strong bond between these two rappers. Although so different fro the outside, they share the characteristics of completely genuine people, both on stage and with each other. The professional and personal courtesy they share is what makes great musical acts, not just in hip-hop, but across all musical genres. If you want to see entertainment at it’s highest order, go to a Run the Jewels show.

After being fantastically bombasted in the first set of the day that forced me to dance and throw up my hands in the fist ‘n’ pistol sign, Dick Diver was scheduled to bring things down to a normal pace. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. Although Dick Diver have released two stellar records, and are now considered one of the forerunners of Australia’s musical scenery, technical issues prevented them from showcasing their talent. Whilst Al Montfort’s bass was considerably fucking up, Steph Hughes tried to keep the dwindling crowd with a bit of banter, and an impromtu ‘Guess That Riff!’, although eventually she resigned that ‘…maybe we should just play something?”. With the blistering heat and the lack of music, Dick Diver unfortunately lost a hefty portion of the crowd.

But those who stayed were infinitely rewarded as the band went through their slacker pop classics like ‘Calender Days’ and ‘Through the D’. Pretty much a perfect cure to being molested by energy from the Run the Jewels set. Dick Diver are definitely a band to cherish, and its a solid bummer that there weren’t more people that had faith enough in the band that they could come back from the technical fuck ups.

Perhaps I got too accustomed to the lack of being crowded at Dick Diver, because xxyyxx became too much. The music itself is almost perfect electronic music. One cannot underestimate how good xxyyxx really is, and live, the man is a soul-train of glitchy, R&B infused ambience. However, the crowd at the performance was too harrowing. There was no room to move or dance, and the stifling nature meant that you either saw xxyyxx or you placed yourself in a position of minor comfort. Eventually, it was a better option to sacrifice the visual element for the audible element, but it would’ve been nice to see how these magnificent tunes unfolded.

On the other hand, Daughter were a band that were able to be enjoyed in a comfortable environment that will be referred to from now on as Laneway-esque. This Laneway-esque environment is one of complete leisure. You know those scenes in movies where people are lying in hammocks in a tropical paradise? Fuck that. Give me a sprawled lawn, and Daughter playing their hazier-than-thou tunes that smother (PUN!) you in smiles, any day over that. Stunning.

Following a set of dripping gorgeousness, it was time for the exact opposite: Parquet Courts. Along with this band came the only clash of the day-see some stoner punks from Brooklyn, the jaw-dropping Kurt Vile or the hyped and mind-blowing Jagwar Ma. Decisions, decisions! However, the correct choice of Parquet Courts was made. After a shaky intro, they launched into what was basically a greatest-hits set of Sonic Youth and Pavement-owing garage rock. ‘Borrowed Time’, ‘You’ve Got Me Wonderin’ Now’, and of course, ‘Stoned and Starving’, with some lesser-knowns like ‘Donuts Only’, ‘Careers in Combat’ and They blew through song after song, building each two/three minute track into a tiny pedestal of amazing. They attached themselves to their instruments, attacking them with a ferocity that’s hardly ever seen these days.

With their instruments in tow, the members bended and shook the fabrications of garage rock, throwing their tools around the stage, trying to get that perfect squeal of feedback. It’s this sort of mentality that made it seem like every member was completely enthralled in their own thing, yet the magic of Parquet Courts is how they manage to tie it all down. Although each instrument sounds like its cartwheeling off on a mushroom-laden adventure, the effect is a giant Phil Spector wall of sound that contains a million little melodies. It’s like this on record, but that’s more than one could hope for in the flesh, right? But Parquet Courts pulled it off, and they did it with every-man flair, like they just walked from the bong-ozone after doing an eight hour shift at the local deli. It also helps that their guitarist looks a lot like Thurston Moore. Parquet Courts are one of the best guitar bands of the present age, so go see them this Wednesday at The Standard.

So Parquet killed it, and that was almost expected, but the big surprise of the day apart from Run the Jewels, was HAIM. I love HAIM quite a bit, but there wasn’t the mindset that they’d turn out to be the foul-mouthed, crowd-adored bombasters that they were. God, after seeing HAIM, not only was I enthralled with everything about them, but I wanted to be the drummer in their band. I can’t play drums, but you know I’d fucking learn if it meant getting to hang with the three coolest sisters on the planet.

HAIM have basically done what no other artist has been able to do. They signed to a major right off the bat, got a bunch of meaningless press done by Rolling Stone, NME and Spin, and then put out an album that had no choice but to be heralded. However, these are all very behind-the-scenes occurrences, and a bit of my mind was certain that it was all this elaborate studio ruse, and HAIM actually fucking sucked.

I was so, so wrong. On stage, the sisters strike a resemblance to a sassy Led Zeppelin that’s been shrouded in California sunshine and immersed in Kanye West songs. They were flawless, and I’m sorry I ever derided them in passing. There is nothing but good things to be said about the band’s set. From the versatility and expertise executed musically, to the loud confidence that rubs off from the girls, HAIM are probably one of the most proficient bands around. But that’s not all. They’re music was made to be shouted back by thousands of adoring fans, and its not some sort of flavour of the month bullshit. ‘The Wire’, ‘Falling’, and ‘Don’t Save Me’ are just a few of the songs in HAIM’s set that proved that the band are more than worthy of headliner status. In fact, every song HAIM played seem to just cause the crowd, and myself to swoon even more. The plan was to just catch 20 minutes of the set, but they forced me to stay for the majority. Absolutely fabulous and unique band, live and on record.  Everyone should take this as evidence to go and get their album, immediately.

Oh, and for all those wondering about those rumours of Baby Haim having a weird bass face…totally true.

It was weird then, that after an unexpected high from HAIM, Danny Brown put on a strange performance. There was nothing inherently wrong with what Danny did on stage. He was unsurprisingly charismatic, but he seemed a bit tired, as though he was struggling with what he had to do. There were the trademarks of course-KISS tongue, childish giggles and a constantly swishing frizz of hair. And his actual proficiency on a microphone is uncontested. But, although the vibes emanating from the stage were forceful, there wasn’t the complete joyousness in the air that accompanied Run the Jewels.

Regardless of whatever cosmic uncertainty I was feeling,  Danny Brown’s set proved to be an exercise in rap fertility. The crowd were in a completely rambunctious state, crowd surfing becoming a norm, and dead-set moshing occuring. Perhaps it was the propensity for air-horns in Danny Brown’s music, the anthemic structure of his songs (‘Kush Coma’ and ‘Dope Song’ proved to be riotous), or the male dominated crowd. Who knows? But the violence hit an all time high when a fan rushed the stage and got the shit promptly kicked out of him by security, the DJ and Danny Brown’s Samuel L. Jackson look-alike bodyguard. Meanwhile, Danny didn’t miss a beat onstage. In summarisation, it was the abundance of attitude and ego that killed an otherwise glorious performer. After seeing someone get fucking thrashed so nonchalantly, it was hard to enjoy ‘Dip’ with the drugged out glamour it deserved, and not even the forest of blunts could rectify the unease.

After Danny’s personally divisive set, Savages took the stage. Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot of people there to experience the greatness that is Savages-on the main stage was the all-conquering Lorde, whilst Earl Sweatshirt apparently dominated the Future Classic stage. That didn’t leave a whole lot of audience open to check out some furious all-female post-punk from London. On the plus side, it meant that only the loyal showed up, and Savages put on a performance that none would soon forget.

Jehnny Beth is an intimidating character, and as she worked through tracks from Savages’ debut record, she struck a pose that was a cross between a glaring Siouxsie Sioux and Jello Biafra during Dead Kennedy’s most fuck-you period. Whilst hits like ‘No Face’, ‘Husbands’ and ‘I Am Here’ threw themselves at the audience with blistering conviction, swirling mist covered the band, and the witching hour time slot made Savages’ set appear to be some kind of soundtrack to a cult gathering in a Glasgow marsh. If Merlin was a post-punk fan, Savages would be his favourite group.  The intimacy and furiosity offered by the band was second to none, and you really couldn’t help but be completely mesmerised by their dark, strutting majesty.

The most impressive factor of the band however is their ability to warp the dynamics of their songs until it feels like your very existence depends on whether Gemma Thompson can explode that guitar riff over bass players Ayse Hassan’s grumbling, treacle-lined bass lines. Within a few bars, Savages can switch between soaring heights and crushing lows, bringing the crowd into a frenzy they didn’t even know possible, showcased most effectively with the massive and bitter ‘She Will’ and the audience captivating ten-minute closer of ‘Fuckers’. By the end, everyone was so immersed in the music, when Beth asked for the crowd to inhale, and think of one fucker they hated, you could hear the punters thinking of that fucking dipshit that belonged six feet under. Jesus Christ, Savages are both brutal and intelligent, a dichotomy of the highest order. Give yourself to this band, and let them take you on the savage ride that your mind needs.

So, nothing could top Savages right? Well, Cloud Control basically took the viciousness of the previous band, and turned it into the most joyous and enthralling sets of the festival. The musicians, who are younger than Shia La Beouf is in Transformers, put on the most youthfully intoxicating set imagineable. Every track was sung with a belief and authenticity that would make Prince quake in his boots. There was more jumping involved in Cloud Control’s domination of the main stage than a yoga festival invaded by bull-ants.

So Cloud Control were super hyper and amazingly warm on stage? Cool man, but what about the music??? Well, they’ve got an EP and two albums to their name, but their 45 minute set was more greatest hits than collection of singles mixed with other shit. Seriously, not a bad song in the bunch, and because of this, the crowd would have done anything to continue the concert. Even the songs that seem more refined on record exploded on stage, ‘Scream Rave’ becoming an elated gospel track, and ‘Island Living’ literally detonating with Alastair playing his guitar solo with a sparkler attached to his guitar. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!?

So, with the polite tunes ramped up to considerable party levels, it only left the actual party songs to disappear into the heathens of amazing. ‘This Is What I Said’, ‘Meditation Song #2’ and closers ‘Scar’ and ‘There’s Nothing In The Water We Can’t Fight’ became staples of happiness amongst a crowd that simply couldn’t stop dancing and smiling, Cloud Control soundtracking the perfect hippie night of innocent debauchery. Oh yeah, did I mention that pulled off a fucking perfect cover of the Butthole Surfers ‘Pepper’ in the middle of ‘Gold Canary’? That thought alone gives me shivers. The fucking Surfers!? With ‘Gold Canary!? Jesus Christ, clean up on Aisle 12.

After one of the most spectacular performances, Unknown Mortal Orchestra finished off the night. Technically, I caught a bit of The Jezabels and Four Tet, but really, the most realistic conclusion point was with Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s flooring set. In terms of technical psychedelic guitar playing, UMO shit all over Tame Impala. Watching Ruban Nielson turn the guitar into whatever he wanted it to be, bending out sounds and then trampling on them within a quaver, was majestic.

On record, UMO come across as a plain-ish band, revelling in their simple fairy psych-pop for critical damage. However, when witnessing that sort of shredding on stage, and pairing it with the wholesome falsetto of Nielson, you’d be forgiven if you shat your pants in amazement. Massive hits like ‘Ffunny Friends’ and ‘So Good At Being In Trouble’ mingled amongst lesser known tracks that wrought awesome on all involved. Generally speaking, the audience was being immersed in the best psychedelic performance to hit Sydney in absolutely ages.

In short, Laneway is the most musically diverse, artistically progressive, and forward-thinking festivals on the music market right now, possibly on a global scale, considering Laneway’s success in Detroit last year. Going to festivals is usually fun, but Laneway take it to another level. They nurture and comfort the average punter in ways that the bigger festivals could never hope for. Not only is Laneway thoroughly enjoyable, but its fucking necessary, an event so enjoyable it leaves a post-festival void of emptiness in your heart.

HSC Trials Study Playlist

A lot of people are struggling with the Trials at the moment. I’ll make this brief: here’s a bunch of music that you can study to and will hopefully help you not fail. Nothing too weird or unsightly, nothing energetic, just really smooth relaxing music that will put you in a good mood and help you not go on a killing spree. 

1. Hebronix-Unliving

2. Twerps-Who Are You

3. Bearhug-Cinema West

4. Nite Jewel-One Second of Love

5. Modest Mouse-Baby Blue Sedan

6. High Highs-Open Season

7. Telling-Stella

8. The Beta Band-She’s the One For Me

9. The Flaming Lips-Do You Realize??

10. Elliot Smith-Ballad of Big Nothing

11. Portishead-The Rip

12. Elvis Depressedly-I’m Never Going to Understand

13. Laura Marling-Ghosts

14. Dick Diver-Water Damage

15. Shining Bird-Distant Dreaming

16. Ciggie Witch-Back Aches

17. I’lls-To: All the Blurred

18. Naysayer & Gilsun-In Mind (feat. Simon Lam)

19. Chet Faker- I’m Into You